Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rain, Venus's transit, and more sharks

We had serious rain last night and plugged up the scuppers to catch some for laundry. Today we also made drinking water using our reverse osmosis system (based on pushing sea water at 800 psi through a special membrane that allows only H20 through). This takes a lot of power (14+ amps), so we did this while motoring to a new anchorage inside the atoll and we recharged our batteries at the same time. The old Balmar alternator that we had rebuilt in Mexico is working well and was putting out a nice solid 55 amps. We needed this because our batteries were quite low after a couple of gray days. Normally (on reasonably sunny days) our solar panels keep things topped up.

The new anchorage is much quieter than the one near the pass - well sheltered from the north east winds that have been blowing all day. Three related families live near the beach off which we are anchored, on a small island set in the coral rim of the atoll. We met one woman who spends most of her time on this motu, but also visits the main village about 25 miles away each week for blood tests and to buy supplies and visit her relatives. She gave us a bag of eggplants from her garden this afternoon, which we shared with the other cruisers here and we will visit her with a gift of dried bananas tomorrow.

By the way, the banana drying worked really well and we have a few pounds of them wrapped up in individual cellophane packets. The only issue is that each banana piece bears a striking resemblance to a mummified human finger because I split each banana and then cut the split section in half.

We watched the transit of Venus today from a vantage point quite near to where Captain Cook made his observations in 1769. The first voyage of Cook was funded by the Royal Society for the purpose of witnessing this transit from a suitable mid-Pacific location. This was done to enable an accurate calculation of the distance from the earth to the Sun, a baseline number upon which many astronomical calculations could then be based. We saw Venus enter the sun on the lower right side around noon and arc across the lower half until clouds obscured things near sunset. Through the sextant, Venus appeared as a black dot on the sun.

Yesterday we were swimming in a small sandy lagoon off the south pass at Fakarava when a dive boat came in with some fish, which they cleaned to make cerviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice). The bits they threw in the water attracted more than 2 dozen sharks and the feeding frenzy was quite amazing to see from our vantage point at the same level as the sharks and maybe 30 feet away. There were so many sharks in the almost enclosed pool that there were several at any time cruising a few feet from us. They were mostly smaller black tipped reef sharks but even so, there is something cold and fierce about them that strikes a primal chord. I have never been closer to so many large predators than at this time and I must give Rani cudos, for she had arrived a half hour earlier and been the only swimmer in the water here for a while, despite her fear of sharks.

We are gradually making our way north through the lagoon and had planned to stop at a couple more anchorages. However stronger south east winds may push us out the north pass and over to the atoll of Toau earlier than we had intended.

Corrections: to my last blog post - the open water PADI course here is 3 days and includes 6 dives, not 2 days/3 dives as I had stated. the shorter course is a 'Scuba Diver' course. Also - in an earlier post I mentioned that Rani dropped a flashlight overboard in 40 feet. From reading the PADI manual, I have learned that this would have put it at more than two atmospheres of pressure rather than the one atmosphere I stated...

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